Up the Backstretch: San Antonio Stakes a rare early season treat

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – If every indication is correct, the
connections of California Chrome are all anxious to get the 2015 racing season
started for the reigning Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion.

California Chrome is stabled at Los Alamitos Race Course as he has been since
Hollywood Park closed in Dec. 2013. The 4-year-old colt has been training
consistently at the track and is being pointed toward the $500,000 San Antonio
Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, Feb. 7.

“He looks really good right now,” said trainer Art Sherman. “It will be nice
if all three horses can hook up in the San Antonio. I think they will. I’ve
got a good feeling about it.”

The three horses Sherman alluded to are his colt along with Bayern and Shared
Belief. These are the probable finalists for the Eclipse Award as 2014
champion 3-year-old colt and gelding with at least two of them among the
finalists for Horse of the Year. The finalists will be announced Wednesday,
Jan 7.

Bayern, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, is based at Santa Anita and
Shared Belief, 2013 champion 2-year-old, is stabled at Golden Gate Fields.

Victor Espinoza, California Chrome’s jockey, is also excited for the colt’s
upcoming 4-year-old season. He worked the horse Saturday morning at Los
Alamitos, going six furlongs in 1:12.60

“He worked unbelievable,” Espinoza said. “He went in one twelve and change
which is what I wanted from him. He was pulling a lot. He’s getting tougher;
he’s on his toes right now. He’s basically better than before.”

How dangerous will California Chrome be this season if he’s better than he was
as a 3-year-old when he won five straight stakes to begin the year and then
finished with a commanding victory on turf in the 1 1/8-mile Hollywood Derby
at Del Mar?

“He has completely changed as he’s getting older. As a 4-year-old, he’s going
to be a different horse. He works differently. Yesterday (Saturday) was the
slowest I could go. He’s pulling hard, which he never used to do. He’s tough.

“He’s building back up big time physically. He tries to jump around and bite
the pony every chance he gets and I believe in 2015 he’ll run the best races
of his life … He’s an amazing horse and he did unbelievable things in 2014
but I’m really looking forward to 2015.”

The San Antonio, at 1 1/8 miles, has been the customary prep event for the
1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Handicap held a month later. The last two Big Caps were
won by Game On Dude who is now retired.

Having the three best known thoroughbreds running against each other so early
in the year is a rare treat for thoroughbred racing fans.

“It would be fun to see these three horses come together again in the San
Antonio,” noted Alan Sherman, assistant to his father.

Fun is exactly what thoroughbred racing is all about and kicking off the year
with high profile horses facing each other elevates the excitement